One Father’s Victory in Family Court

December 21st, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Just in time for the holidays, Fathers and Families received the below email.  It’s that rarest of birds, a custody story with a happy ending.  We see so few of those, I’m happy to relay this one to our readers.  Still, it’s worth noting how long it took this father to convince courts to do what should have been obvious virtually from the start.  Yes, the system got it right this time, and that’s a good thing.  But how much time, how much heartache, how much energy, how much money and how much emotional damage was done to the kids before the court did the right thing?  Judge for yourself.

Amid so many gloomy stories in the news of children being separated from loving parents, I wanted to share you with my personal story of victory to give hope to other fathers. In short, last week a Texas court awarded me permanent sole custody of my two sons after a 7 year battle with their mother.

I divorced the mother in 2005 after she cheated on me. After I filed for divorce, she levied false allegations of abuse against me. Though I was eventually cleared, the looming shadow of those allegations kept me from gaining possession of our two boys, even though the mother was unemployed. From 2005 through 2010, the mother denied about half of my visitations with the boys and engaged in textbook alienation procedures.

Then in 2007, I married a wonderful woman (with 2 daughters) who are the same ages as my sons. It didn’t take long for my ex-wife to allege that my stepdaughters had done something inappropriate to the boys, and she used that as an excuse to continue denying my visitation. I filed multiple motions with the local court to enforce visitation, and those orders were granted but not enforced and she continued to ignore them.

Then in late 2010, we found out that Child Protective Services was investigating her for violence in her home and her relationship with a registered sex offender. My attorney contacted CPS; CPS intended to remove the boys from her, but they agreed to help me get custody rather than place the boys in foster care. On Dec. 28, 2010, after a CPS investigator testified against her, the judge ruled that she had placed the boys in a dangerous situation and he awarded temporary sole custody to me, giving her no rights or visitation except 3 phone calls per week; also she was not ordered to pay child support, but at least my child support to her was stopped. At this time, she lived in Texas and I lived in Georgia with my wife and stepdaughters.

We had 4 separate court dates after I gained temporary sole custody, but she got continuances of them for various reasons. Unfortunately for me, I had to make those trips from Georgia to Texas, at my own expense, and did not find out until I arrived that it would be re-scheduled. Still, I was happy to have custody of my sons.

Finally we all appeared before the judge this month – a female judge. My ex clearly perjured herself when she testified, and she had failed to comply with requests for discovery; none of her subpoenaed witnesses even showed up to court. I showed that I had fully complied with the temporary order and that the boys were happy and healthy living with me. In the end, the judge awarded me sole custody, ordered her to pay child support AND my attorney’s fees, and gave her limited supervised visitation where I live. My sons are ages 11 and 13 and they are happy that we finally have a permanent resolution. They prefer to be with me, and I will continue enabling them to have a relationship with their mother in accordance with the court order.

This was the best Christmas gift ever both for me and my sons, and I want other fathers to know that sometimes the system does work. I’ve subscribed to the F&F emails for several years, and the occasional stories of victory have given me hope. I also want to warn fathers about lawyers – a cheap attorney will give you a cheap effort. I went through 4 different attorneys and the only one who got me actual results was the expensive one. And it was worth it, especially since the judge surprisingly ordered my ex to pay the attorney’s fees.

Congratulations to this father!  It’s wonderful that his kids are in his care and that he’s doing what he can to facilitate their relationship with their mother, despite her obvious problems.  That said, look at what he and his children had to endure – false allegations of abuse, serial continuances of court hearings and, worst of all, parental alienation.  Notice too that the first inclination of Child Protective Services was to place the boys in foster care rather than with the father who had clear parental rights both under the order of the family court and the Constitution of the United States.  All’s well that ends well, but this one should have ended years earlier than it did.

Still, fathers take heart.  Fight the good fight and sometimes you actually win!

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